How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
Adam Sandler’s newest vehicle is a study in contrasts—some scenes are intensely moving, while others appeal to the gross taste of a 6th grade audience. Michael (Adam Sandler) is a talented architect obsessed with becoming a partner in his firm. Thus, though he tells his disappointed wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) and children whenever he breaks this or that date with them that he is doing it for the good of the family, they find it difficult to believe him. Then one day when he has trouble finding the TV remote among the myriad of those on the table (there is one for the garage door, a toy car, and more), he sets forth to buy a universal remote.
He passes a Best Buy and goes into a Bed, Bath and Beyond Store to ask for a remote. Told they have none, he sees a door marked “Beyond” and goes through it. Turns out it is indeed beyond, way beyond. The room seems like a vast storehouse, and at the customer desk is Morty (Christopher Walken), working on an electronic device. He shows Michael the latest model in remotes, this one being a universe control, rather than just universal. Michael discovers that with a click he can raise and lower the voice level of people, even mute them. He can speed up the action so that minutes, hours, or days flash by. He can revisit the past, such as his birth and first kiss with Donna. Delighting in his newfound power, Michael uses the device in many situations, especially at his firm where he climbs the ladder of success to become a partner. There is one warning from Morty that Michael ignores at the time—you cannot return or get rid of the remote.
But wait, like all Mephistophelean deals, this one has a catch—that warning that the device is non-returnable and non-discardable. The remote has a stored memory of Michael’s preferences, and after a while automatically speeds up time so that Michael misses out on whole periods of his family’s life, including the death of his beloved father Ted (Henry Winkler). The mood of this part of the film becomes very somber, and moving, as, too late, Michael acquires the wisdom needed to discern what is truly valuable. Michael has sowed what he reaped, and the crop is anything but desirable. Despite some vulgar humor, and an ending that almost cops out on us, this is a film well worth a group’s time viewing and discussing
Note: Because we must refer to the two endings of the film, you might want to wait before reading past the first few questions.
1) What is Michael like when we first see him? How is he like so many professionals who put their work above their family? What do such professionals miss out on? (Note to leader: If you can find a recording of Harry Chapin’s great cautionary song “Cat’s in the Cradle” have it playing as the group gathers.)
2) What power issues do you see in remote devices? How are these at their ultimate in Michael’s “universe” remote? It is interesting that he is an architect, a builder: how he is he similar to those who built the Tower of Babel?
3) How is this film similar, in regard to the issue of power and its unintended/unforeseen consequences, to Bruce Almighty?
4) Morty says to Michael about a leprechaun, “ He’s always chasing the pot of gold, but when he gets there, at the end of the day, it’s just corn flakes.” How does this apply to Michael and his dream of partnership?
5) When the film turned very serious during the last half, I was hoping that the filmmaker would not resort to the clichéd solution to resolve Michael’s dilemma. How did you feel when they did? Let down or cheated? How did what amounts to a second ending partially make up for their cop-out?